The owners of the Oklahoma City clothing company behind a T-shirt “thanking” Seattle for the NBA’s Thunder are working with police to catch the people who allegedly sent them death threats. They also say the outrage by fans of the former Sonics is actually helping sales.
The shirts by Warpaint Clothing Company show the old Sonics logo in blue, minus the Space Needle, on the front. The back has the message “Thank You Seattle –OKC.”
The Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics for 41 years. In 2006, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the team to an Oklahoma City-based group led by Clay Bennett. Two years later, the team moved after the owners and the city of Seattle reached an agreement to let the team out of its lease at KeyArena.
The shirts were actually made two years ago, but images of them received widespread play on a Yahoo! Sports blog. When KING 5 and other Seattle media outlets picked it up, Sonics fans were livid. They lashed out at Warpaint on Twitter.
One owner, who did not want to be identified, told Oklahoma TV stations Tuesday that they truly were thankful to Seattle and meant no disrespect, but admitted they did not realize how bitter Sonics fans still are about the team’s departure.
"I don't think we really knew how upset the Sonics fans were. I mean we knew they were kind of crass about it, but we figure it's been four years," the owner told Oklahoma’s News9.
The company said it received numerous threats via phone, email and social media.
“Saying they’re going to come and shoot up the place,” said the owner.
One perceived threat came on the company’s Facebook page, reading “Can you make a shirt that says ‘OKC is DA BOMB’ with a Ryder truck on it?" The message is in reference to the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh that killed 168 people.
The Warpaint owners told News9 they took the shirts off their site due to the threats and out of respect, but they received backlash for that as well, so the shirts are back online and selling well.
“By so many people hating, so many people hearing about us,” the owner told KOCO-TV. “You guys had them for 40-something years and took it for granted and just didn’t do too well.”
Warpaint said it has caller ID, so it has turned over the names and numbers to police.